Foodies from across the Houston-area are looking forward to a sweet week thanks to the 12th Annual Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair. From Wednesday through Sunday, the populous suburb will play host to a series of events that feature a variety of chefs and bartenders from Houston and beyond.
A VIP dinner kicks off the festival Wednesday night. Dubbed "La Dolce Vita," chefs from some of Houston's top Italian restaurants are joining forces for a five-course meal with wine pairings from Italian importer Banfi. Familiar faces include Jose Hernandez of Radio Milano and Efisio Farris of Arcodoro. Tickets are $150.
On Thursday, some of the city's up-and-coming bartenders from places like Beaver's and Johnny's Gold Brick will compete in the On The Rocks challenge. The winner earns a $1,500 grand prize and the bragging rights that come from having his or her creation designated as the official cocktail of the festival that will be served throughout the weekend's events. Tickets are $40.
The weekend sees the festival shift into high gear. Duck out of work early on Friday to attend either the World Whiskey Tour ($75), which features products from the United States, Canada, Ireland, Scotland and Japan, or the Hidden Gems Wine Seminar ($50), where wine professional Jessica Sanders will explore the latest trends in wine.
Friday night's Grand Tasting features a mix of up-and-coming chefs from Houston, Sugar Land favorites and a couple of intriguing out-of-towners. John Moeller, one of the visitors, worked at the White House from 1992 until 2005 and wrote an award-winning book called Dining at the White House. Tickets are $150.
Saturday's Sip and Stroll takes place on the grounds of the historic Imperial Sugar factory. The event features additional restaurant tastings as well as a beer garden with 100 beers from 25 breweries. Chef Mark DeNittis of the Rocky Mountain Institute of Meat will conduct a live butchery demonstration. Tickets are $65.
Finally, the weekend wraps up with the Bistro Brunch on Sunday. Relax with mimosas and Bloody Marys while listening to live jazz performed by local musician Kelly Dean, the editor-in-chief of JazzHouston.com. Tickets are $50.
Feel like spending all weekend at the festival? Buy a VIP pass that grants access to the Grand Tasting, Sip and Stroll and Bistro Brunch. The price of $225 represents a $40 savings over buying them separately.